Armoy brothers Aaron and Conor Christie know what it’s like to be at the top of their game having represented Ireland at rowing and cross country.
Fifteen year old Aaron, recently competed in the Home Nations Championship at Strathclyde, Glasgow in the Coxed Fours, coming a creditable second.
Having just taken up the sport three years ago, the Loreto pupil has gone from strength to strength since joining Bann Rowing Club.
“A teacher at school saw how tall I was and suggested I try rowing. I went along to Bann really enjoyed it and haven’t stopped since.”
Aaron, who stands at 6’4, came to the attention of the Irish selectors following the successes of Bann Rowing Club around the country and following trials at Easter he received his call up to the Irish team.
“I’ve been to a few Irish training camps in Enniskillen and Cork and I also had to take part in a required Erg (ergometer) competition which I finished third in the Junior 16 category. I was really pleased to be selected to row for Ireland, I just want to be as successful in the sport as I possibly can.”
Selection for his country means a fairly strict training schedule for aaron.
“I train four days a week but in the build up to the Championships it was every day. It hasn’t been too bad this season getting the balance with training and school right but once September comes and the new season starts again it will be a bit different because this is an important year at school with exams.”
Although the rowing season has ended, Aaron remains focused.
“Normally there is a break of six weeks but I’m only getting a month because I was rowing in the Home nations in Scotland. It’s good to take a little bit of time of to recharge your batteries but I still have to stay in shape and retain my fitness for the start of the season again. To be honest I miss the routine and look forward to getting back into a proper schedule again.”
Although there is no shortage of role models at Bann Rowing Club with Olympic medalists alan Campbel, Richard and Peter Chambers, frequent visitors, it is double Olympic Gold medalist James Cracknell who inspires Aaron.
“Everyone would like to be as successful as the Olympians from Bann,” added Aaron. “However, I really like the mindset of James Cracknell. I would like to be as good at him, he is so driven and focussed on everything he does and I want to be the best at everything I do.
“I will keep on working hard and training hard and hopefully I will enjoy success along the way.”
Brother Conor knows exactly what Aaron is going through having represented Ireland in 2010 and 2012 at cross country as well as becoming an Ulster All Star for hurling.
The former Cross and Passion pupil who now works in the family business still runs for his local club, however, the pressures of work mean its purely as a hobby.
“I have always loved running, especially cross country,” said 19-year old Conor.
“I started at school and then joined Springwell Running Club and although it was hard juggling school work and training I found I could make it work.
“I ran for Ireland in Cornwall in 2010 and in Scotland in 2012 as aprt of the Home Internationals. I also competed in 2011 on the indoor track but I preferred cross country.
“I also competed five times for Northern Ireland in the London Mini Marathon. If you did well at the Ulster Schools Championships then you got the opportunity to represent Northern Ireland and run the last three miles of the London Marathon which was great.
“I did try to get a scholarship to America and although my times were better than some of the others and I had won more medals than a lot of the other candidates, they were more interested in track athletes than cross country runners. I was disappointed not to get but it was one of those things.
“It takes a lot of time, commitment and dedication to compete at a high level and although I loved it, things had to change once I started work. I had to look at my priorities and my aim is to take over the running of the family business at some stage and so my running had to take a bit of a back seat.
“Yes, I miss the serious competitive aspect of things. However, it’s purely a hobby for me now.
“It’s down to Aaron now to see what he can do. He has already represented Ireland and we are proud of him . It’s funny because he was never really interested in sport when he was younger but something has clicked with him since he started rowing and he is doing really well at the moment.”